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I’m pregnant and happy about it: a guide to your prenatal care

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read

You got that all-important positive on the pregnancy test? Congratulations! You’re at least three weeks into your 40 week journey! But where do you go next? Let’s take you through the system, so you’re prepared.

How do I access care?

A midwife or obstetrician will guide you through your pregnancy and get you tapped into blood tests, scans, and any other services you may need before planning your delivery with you. You can refer yourself to services as soon as you know you are pregnant. They are usually aligned to a particular hospital. See which is your closest hospital and call the midwife or obstetrician for an appointment.

You will have a blood test to check whether you are anemic, have kidney or liver problems, have certain infectious diseases including HIV, and to check your blood group. They will ask you to take a vaginal swab from yourself to test for common sexually transmitted infections.

They will check your blood pressure and weight and ask questions about other medical conditions and that of your partner. This is usually around 8 to 10 weeks into your pregnancy.

You will then be in the system to have your 12 week scan, which is an ultrasound to accurately date the pregnancy, and your 20 week scan, where any structural abnormalities, known as anomalies, are picked up, and you can usually find out the sex.

What should I be doing now?

You should be taking supplements of folic acid and vitamin D, which are available at any pharmacy. Your blood count drops a little in any normal pregnancy, but if you know you have a tendency to anemia, you may wish to buy iron supplements to keep topped up.

If you smoke, it’s strongly recommended to give this up during pregnancy, as it carries risks to your growing baby. You are also recommended to stop alcohol. If you need any help with either of these or have addiction issues with street or party drugs, you can access substance abuse services via your physician's practice.

Certain foods may be at higher risk in pregnancy, so take a look online for those to avoid, such as uncooked meat or unpasteurized cheese.

Where do I go for concerning symptoms?

This can be a worrying time as your body changes and you want to do the best for your baby, and it can be hard to know what’s normal or when to seek help. If you experience bleeding or abdominal pain in your first 12 weeks – your first trimester – you should contact your doctor.

If you experience bleeding, abdominal pain or reduced movements of the baby after 12 weeks – in your second and third trimesters – you should also contact your doctor.

If you have any urinary symptoms – pain when peeing, going more often, or going with more urgency – then it’s important to have a potential urinary tract infection treated swiftly in pregnancy, as it carries a risk. Get a same-day appointment at your doctor’s office or if out of hours, a local urgent care center.

Who looks after me if I develop complications?

If you have an existing medical condition and are under the care of a specialist, you should discuss it with them ahead of any pregnancy, whether you need any special considerations or need to change any prescribed medications. They will then give specific advice and may consult with an obstetrician, a doctor who looks after pregnancy and delivers babies.

If you develop certain conditions during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or thyroid problems, you may attend clinics with a specialist and an obstetrician. For any complications with the pregnancy, such as abnormalities seen on the scan or pre-eclampsia, an obstetrician will oversee your care and advise on special measures, such as delivering early or taking certain medications.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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